Ministry Musings: Spiritual Leadership

I am working on two projects that call for a fresh concentration on the term “spiritual leadership.”  And while I have spoken and written about the subject over the years, I have a new view to write about today.

It arises as I recall there is a difference between leadership and management, even if a lot of the time a person will be operating in a combination of both worlds.  But when we focus on the leadership side, I believe that spiritual leaders are those who set key things in place.

First and foremost, they set an example.  This begins with their character and integrity, and then it manifests itself in being a servant.  If leaders do not set an example, those who follow them will not do so out of respect. This means that the atmosphere of support will be artificial and superficial.

Second, spiritual leaders set a tone.  I would use the nine dimensions of the fruit of the Spirit to describe that tone.  A one-word description would be encouragement.  It is a tone that is edifying.  If leaders do not set this tone, those who follow them will do so without feeling affirmed and valued.

Third, spiritual leaders set a course.  They navigate by the stars, not just the winds.  Circumstances vary and fluctuate; principles keep us on course.  The leader never stops saying, “The best of all is, God is with us,” and therefore, all is grace.  We learn and grow in easy times and challenging times.  If leaders do not set a course, every change will either be an occasion for pride or despair.

Spiritual leaders are those who “set” things.  And before anything else, they set God in the midst, leaving no doubt as to where the Center is and leaving no question about Who is in charge.

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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